Canelo Álvarez Made a Mandatory Fight a Spectacle. Is a Bigger Bout Next?

Canelo Álvarez Made a Mandatory Fight a Spectacle. Is a Bigger Bout Next?

After Saúl Álvarez won a lopsided decision over John Ryder on Saturday night, he made some small wardrobe adjustments before being interviewed about remaining the undisputed super-middleweight champion.

The gold crown he wore on his walk to the ring at Estadio Akron in Zapopan, Mexico, near Guadalajara, was gone, replaced by a gold-colored laurel wreath. Álvarez, whose nickname is Canelo, had also added a commemorative belt to the other world title straps adorning him, this one commissioned by the World Boxing Council to celebrate his return to his hometown.

It was a moment to celebrate. And for Álvarez, 32, it was also an opportunity to make plain that his objective for September remained the same.

Now that he had dispatched Ryder via bruising unanimous decision, Álvarez wanted a rematch with the last man to defeat him, Dmitry Bivol, in the weight class where they clashed last time, the 175-pound light-heavyweight division.

“Everybody knows we want Bivol,” said Álvarez, whose record is now 59-2-2.

Saturday’s title defense against Ryder was more than an afterthought — the W.B.C. had ordered the bout. Álvarez had to fight him or risk being stripped of the W.B.C. belt.

But the matchup was still a sort of pretext, a reason to celebrate Álvarez’s first bout in his native country since 2011. While plenty of empty seats were visible early during the undercard on Saturday night, the stadium had filled in by the time Álvarez strolled to the ring amid an enormous spectacle heavy on mariachis, fireworks and dancers.

Another fireworks display erupted from the stadium’s roof after the judges’ decision for Álvarez was announced.

If the celebration was the main point of the fight, the subplot was Álvarez’s future, as a champion and pay-per-view attraction.

After defeating Gennadiy Golovkin last September, Álvarez underwent surgery to repair an injured left hand. He then spent Saturday night thumping Ryder with jabs and left hooks, indicating his fist had recovered.

A year after his upset loss to Bivol, Álvarez’s pride might still be healing. In the moments after that bout, Álvarez reacted with grace and sportsmanship. But the promoter Eddie Hearn, the head of Matchroom Boxing, which teamed with Álvarez to stage the Ryder bout, said late Saturday night that Álvarez still yearned to avenge last year’s loss.

“He lost, and it eats him up every day,” Hearn said in a broadcast interview after the fight. “We need to make it happen.”

A Bivol rematch is one of several high-profile options for Álvarez, whose fights tend to align with celebrations of Latino culture. Saturday’s bout fell on Cinco de Mayo weekend, and his previous bout against Golovkin took place during Mexico’s Independence Day celebrations in September.

Álvarez could conceivably defend his super-middleweight titles against one of the undefeated contenders, David Benavidez and David Morrell Jr., who have been campaigning for a bout with him.

Any of those options would yield a big-money bout that would most likely draw Álvarez back to the United States, where deep-pocketed hosts and sponsors could boost the potential payday. Álvarez made a reported $60 million in guaranteed money for his two bouts in 2022 and acknowledged taking a pay cut for Saturday’s bout in Mexico.

None of the prospective fights are guaranteed.

While Álvarez is a free agent with his own promotional company, he has teamed with Matchroom Boxing for six of his last seven bouts. Benavidez and Morrell are both signed to the Premier Boxing Champions managerial outfit.

Bivol is signed to Matchroom, but he and Álvarez are already sparring over contract details. Álvarez wants to fight at light-heavyweight — he could win Bivol’s belt but keep his own super-middleweight titles, if he loses. Bivol would prefer to challenge for Álvarez’s titles at 168 pounds.

“That is the biggest fight by a mile for Dmitry Bivol,” Hearn said. “I hope that he accepts the challenge.”

So Bivol was invested in Saturday’s outcome. Before the fight, he tweeted out an uncannily accurate forecast.

“Fireworks should be there for sure,” he said, along with a game underdog against a master in his hometown.

In Ryder, a rugged slugger from North London, Álvarez met a mirror image. Ryder is 5 feet 9 inches to Álvarez’s 5-8, but both men are bull-necked, thick-limbed super-middleweights who scaled in at 166.7 pounds at Friday’s weigh-in. While Álvarez is an orthodox fighter who stands with his left foot forward, Ryder, a southpaw, leads with his right side.

But they differ in pedigree. Ryder entered Saturday with 32 wins and five losses, and had never won a major world title. Álvarez had won belts in four divisions, and had lost only twice — to Bivol and Floyd Mayweather Jr. — in his 62 previous pro bouts.

According to CompuBox, the fighters threw nearly an identical numbers of punches — 459 for Ryder, compared to 457 for Álvarez. But Álvarez landed 179 punches, while Ryder connected on 80.

Ryder preferred to fight at close range, but Álvarez spent the early rounds edging forward and presenting Ryder with several painful options. He could circle clockwise, where Álvarez clubbed him with roundhouse rights, or move counterclockwise — directly into the heavy left hooks Álvarez swung at his rib cage.

Or Ryder, bleeding heavily from his nose by Round 4, could stay in front of Álvarez, in the path of straight right hands, like the one that knocked him down late in the fifth.

Ryder survived the round, and even tried to rally late in the fight, as Álvarez’s output slowed in the nearly mile-high altitude. Álvarez landed 117 of 253 power punches, according to CompuBox.

Álvarez speculated that the prospect of an upset over a pound-for-pound elite opponent spurred Ryder to last longer than expected.

“They come more difficult than usual, but I know that,” he said. “I’m in this position a long time.”

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